The 8th of September 1962 – Winterset, Iowa

(found caught in the branches of an oak tree in Whistle Stop Park)

Dear Tracy,

It’s all gone wrong, I think. I feel alright about it, but I know that it’s all gone wrong.

Have you ever seen a little boy trying to steal from his mother’s cookie jar? That’s what I feel like.

The toddler struts around the kitchen, his chest stuck out, his arms whirring at his sides. They work up his confidence. Then he sets his sights on his target.

He stands under the top shelf and digs in with his feet. He tilts his head and flings his arm up to the ceiling. The boy feels his arm stretching away from his shoulder, stretching, stretching until it might pop out.

But he’s still five or six feet too short.

So he stomps around the kitchen again, thinking, strutting, arms wagging back and forth across his puffed out chest. Then he has an idea.

He returns to his place underneath the jar, plants his feet and stretches his arm out again. Then, very carefully, he raises himself up onto his toes.

Now he’s about five feet, eight inches too short.

He collapses in on himself and, for the first time since he walked into the kitchen, his shoulders droop. He looks up at the cookie jar and shakes his head.

But he has another idea. He grabs a chair from the table, the one with his sister’s booster seat on it. It gets dragged into position. Then he picks up a little step stool and tosses it on top. And he climbs up the little tower he’s built.

And he’s reaching and reaching and reaching, and you think he’s going to fall and get hurt, crack his head open on the hardwood. But he stays up. The chair somehow stays underneath him, and you think he might get to it. His hand is sweeping back and forth, and it’s so close to the jar. His fingertips brush against it and he stretches out just a bit farther until he can finally get the thing in his hand…

But it all goes wrong. The jar slides off the shelf and falls past his head. It shatters on the floor. Broken cookies are scattered across the kitchen.

So he looks over the mess he made, somehow – miraculously – making it through unscathed himself, and he finds that there isn’t much to do except think. He did have a chance, he tells himself, he had a chance to catch the jar, but it slipped right through his fingers. With this realization planted in his mind, maybe his lip trembles, but he decides that it isn’t worth it. Maybe he glowers at himself or stomps a foot, but the frustration quickly passes. He climbs down from his perch, walks out of the kitchen and never looks back. The mess can deal with itself.

Hopefully.

Love,

Benji

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